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Renewable energy in the North East – wrapping up the final quarter of an eventful 2023!

RenewableUK Shadow Board members Alex Fowler and Jonathan Love

This blog series started at RenewableUK Ports & Vessels conference held in Newcastle in the North East of England on 15th March 2023. Myself and Johnny Love wrote this blog noting our learnings and insights.

We followed up 2 months on with further thoughts on how the transformation from traditional energy generation to renewable energy is taking shape in North East England and its neighbour the Humber.

Next, we looked at how investment in renewable energy throughout the North East region has continued despite the increasingly turbulent political landscape, business case concerns from delaying investment in mega scale projects such as Norfolk Boreas and what the future holds.

That was in August 2023. Roll on to November 2023 and it has been a rollercoaster few months for renewable energy in the UK. We have a new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, a “very disappointing” Allocation Round 5 (from an Offshore Wind perspective) and now a much more positive feeling with the increase to the maximum price cap of 66% and a dedicated Offshore Wind pot announced last week. With all of this going on, it is easy to forget some of the articles which may slip under the radar. Here, I shine a light on just a selection of those from my own region the North East of England.

Big investment in the North East continues!

Teesside has a proud steel making history and still hosts many key petrochemical assets in and around the former Wilton ICI sites. This integrated industrial network makes the area perfectly positioned to attract new investment aimed at accelerating the transition to greener energy. It’s interesting to see the likes of BP, now entering the Offshore Wind market in a big way, also supporting Hydrasun with its recent investment in a new factory. Hydrasun is a provider of integrated fluid transfer, power and control solutions to sectors including renewables and has an established footprint in Teesside. This investment will boost the company’s growth plans having already delivered an impressive 30 projects since 2016. It’s also a boost to local people as high skilled jobs in an industry key to our future are created.

About 45 miles North of the Boro (or Middlesbrough in Teesside for anyone unfamiliar with the local lingo!), the town of Blyth is well established as a key renewable energy hub playing host to the Offshore Renewable Catapult. It will now also see an all-new-state-of-the-art Energy Learning Hub supported with a £13.6 million injection of cash from the UK Government, Northumberland County Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority. This will see STEM and vocational training delivered, enabling young people in the region and those switching careers to join the green revolution!

I was interested and excited in equal measure by the investment from the UK and Scottish Government to create a new North of England Office for the Global Underwater Hub in Newcastle upon Tyne. Innovative underwater technologies are set to play an increasingly important role in the future energy mix and this investment ensures a focal point to enable the flow of ideas, attraction of new talent and a dedicated industry voice.

More wins and delivering on contracts for local firms:

A theme that has stood out for me since researching these blogs in 2023, is just how many contracts are being won by North East firms. It is not always front-page news, but it doesn’t take much digging to see the variety and volume of North East involvement in delivering many of the largest projects in renewable energy.

It was great to see JDR Cables scoop a key contract providing cabling for the enormous Baltic Power windfarm which is a trailblazer in one of the most important emerging markets for Offshore Wind – Poland. I think there is a great symmetry between companies such as JDR Cables with a history in oil and gas now transitioning to a major force in the renewable energy space and Poland, a country with a very high proportion of electricity produced from coal historically, now embracing the benefits of clean energy.

Whilst Smulders secured the contract to deliver offshore transformer modules for the Moray West Offshore Windfarm several months ago, it was pleasing to see the first of them successfully loaded out in Newcastle. These are the first platforms to be built in Britain in many years and continue a proud tradition of high caliber manufacturing along the banks of the Tyne. I’m going back a fair while with this photo, but it is a reminder of the evolution of a river so central to the city of Newcastle upon Tyne!

Source: Pinterest: Shipbuilding on the Tyne: A gallery of historic image

Finishing on a couple of key milestones:

Firstly, Sunderland hosted over 900 delegates and 130 exhibitors at the Offshore Wind North East Event. Whilst on this occasion I was not able to join, I thoroughly enjoyed keeping up to date on what seemed like a vibrant conference. What stood out was the showcasing of our region as a perfect fit for the burgeoning offshore wind sector: a vast coastline, integrated and established land and port infrastructure as well as transferable capabilities from heavy industries – in fact many of the stories touched upon during this series of blogs! Congratulations to the team at NOF, for delivering a top event, their continued dedication and providing a powerful voice for the North East region.

It would be remiss of me to finish without at least a mention for the story which made many national headlines. Dogger Bank, operated from South Tyneside, produced first power to the National Grid. A monumental moment for a monumental project! Well done all involved.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog series over the course of 2023. I have certainly enjoyed writing them. I would particularly like to thank Johnny Love, Julia Roope and Kerry Hayes for peer reviewing expertly. Whilst my time as a member of RenewableUK Shadow Board member is drawing to a close, it has given me the confidence to continue with the writing. In 2024, I hope to share a few more thoughts and stories with at least a continued nod towards two of my favourite topics – renewable energy and the beautiful North East of England!

About the Author:

Alex Fowler has lived, studied and worked in North East England all his life. He is a keen runner, with a favourite route being the iconic “black path” trail following the River Tees from Middlesbrough to Redcar. This well-known trail was once followed by sailors and workers in the huge steelworks as they moved between home and shifts. Having grown up in Middlesbrough, witnessing the evolution of this place to a leader in the transition to clean energy is exciting. Now living in Whitley Bay, Alex also has the pleasure to watch the rebirth of the River Tyne as a key offshore wind hub for operation and maintenance as well as supply chain activity. Alex has spent the last decade with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy working with a talented and dedicated sales team shaping contracts for some of the worlds’ largest windfarms.



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